Banned Books Week 2017: What Feminism Means

As part of Banned Books Week, we share a list of recommended titles that promote the freedom to seek and express ideas. UC Press is proud to publish esteemed feminist scholars and activists who argue for inclusivity and social justice in all forms, who advocate for feminism and the movement towards an equal society for all people, without discrimination.

During Banned Books Week (ending September 30), get a 30% discount on these selected titles on Feminism.

Below, enjoy some highlights from our list:

How All Politics Became Reproductive Politics: From Welfare Reform to Foreclosure to Trump
by Laura Briggs

“This book is a tour de force that highlights the failures of neoliberalism for many American families. With intensity and verve, Laura Briggs reveals the crisscrossing binds that constrain women, particularly women of color, queer women, and poor women.”—Alexandra Minna Stern, author of Eugenic Nation and Telling Genes

“Move over Sheryl Sandberg and Anne-Marie Slaughter. Here comes Laura Briggs, who shows how questions of care stand at the center of all politics. Briggs unmasks the racialized, classed, and gendered politics of this neoliberal moment with verve, sophistication, and vision.”—Eileen Boris, coauthor, Caring for America: Home Health Workers in the Shadow of the Welfare State

 

The Big Push: Exposing and Challenging the Persistence of Patriarchy
by Cynthia Enloe

“With Cynthia’s accessible and engaging style, The Big Push shines an important new light on contemporary and historical events.”—Sandra Whitworth, author of Men, Militarism and UN Peacekeeping

“Women and men who care about democracy and social justice need to read this book. Cynthia Enloe’s astute and far-sighted interpretation of ‘sustainable patriarchy’ is just what we need for the feminist struggles unfolding in the twenty-first century.”—Kathryn Kish Sklar, author of Women’s Rights Emerges within the Anti-Slavery Movement, 1830-1870

 

 

Radical Eroticism: Women, Art, and Sex in the 1960s
by Rachel Middleman

“With detailed discussions of the bold ways that heterosexual women artists foregrounded their sexuality as confrontational, critical, and political, Radical Eroticism makes an important contribution to the literature on Sixties art and adds to the revisions of its history that locate sex and gender as defining characteristics of the decade.”—David J. Getsy, Goldabelle McComb Finn Distinguished Professor of Art History, School of the Art Institute of Chicago

“A crucial resource for future studies of contemporary women’s erotic art and the sexual politics of erotic representations.”—Susan Richmond, Associate Professor of Art History, Georgia State University

 

Provocations: A Transnational Reader in the History of Feminist Thought
by Susan Bordo

Provocations is an ambitious, pioneering, interdisciplinary anthology that promises to disrupt hegemonic narratives of the complex histories of feminisms that permeate women’s studies classrooms in the U.S. academy. From the ancient world to the recent Arab Spring, Provocations engages some of the most compelling and contentious debates in the centuries old ‘woman question.’”—Beverly Guy-Sheftall, Anna Julia Cooper Professor of Women’s Studies and Founding Director of the Women’s Research and Resource Center at Spelman College

 

 

Reproductive Justice: An Introduction
by Loretta Ross & Rickie Solinger

“Controlling reproduction and the bodies of women seems to be the first step in every hierarchy. That’s why reproductive justice—women having power over our own bodies—is the crucial first step toward any democracy, any human rights, and any justice.” —Gloria Steinem

“We need to know the history laid out in Reproductive Justice, because we need to not repeat the ugliness of the past. Our strategies need to be inclusive and intersectional.None of us are free until we’re all free.”—Cecile Richards, President, Planned Parenthood Federation of America

 

 

Ronnie Gilbert: A Radical Life in Song
by Ronnie Gilbert with a foreword by Holly Near 

“Activism is just one of the threads winding through this title, along with music, theater, performance, politics, and the challenges of building a life outside of the 20th-century mainstream. . . . Yet it’s the music that shines the brightest in this memoir; Gilbert’s time with the Weavers and her creative partnership with Holly Near bookend a life no less remarkable for being remarkably nonlinear.”—Library Journal

“Gilbert’s memoir brings to life the frightening political climate of the times. . . . We are fortunate that Gilbert took the time to document her singular experiences as a committed activist and singer whose soaring contralto and “dangerous songs” both accompanied and animated the progressive movements of her time.”—San Francisco Chronicle


Fascism or Populism? Playing the “Democratic Game”

In today’s fast-paced political news cycle, terms like “fascism” and “populism” are often used, but not always clearly defined. What are fascism and populism– and how can (and should) we confront these ideologies in our present climate? And what, exactly, are the real implications when pundits name Donald Trump a fascist?Federico Finchelstein, author of the forthcoming From Fascism to Populism in History, explores the origins of these ideologies, their significance, and the important distinctions between them in the pages of his book:

Unlike fascists, populists most often play the democratic game and will eventually cede power after losing an election. That’s because populism, though similar to fascism in conflating itself with the nation and the people, links these totalizing claims of popular national representation to electoral decisions. In other words, populism projects a plebiscitary understanding of politics and rejects the fascist form of dictatorship.

Populism is an authoritarian form of democracy. Defined historically, it thrives in contexts of real or imagined political crises, wherein populism offers itself as antipolitics. It claims to do the work of politics while keeping itself free from the political process. Democracy in this sense simultaneously increases the political participation of real or imagined majorities while it excludes, and limits the rights of, political, sexual, ethnic, and religious minorities. As noted above, populism conceives the people as One—namely, as a single entity consisting of leader, followers, and nation. This trinity of popular sovereignty is rooted in fascism but is confirmed by votes. Populism stands against liberalism, but for electoral politics. Therefore, we can better understand populism if we think of it as an original historical reformulation of fascism that first came to power after 1945. Populism’s homogenizing view of the people conceives of political opponents as the antipeople. Opponents become enemies: nemeses who, consciously or unconsciously, stand for the oligarchical elites and for a variety of illegitimate outsiders. Populism defends an illuminated nationalist leader who speaks and decides for the people. It downplays the separation of powers, the independence and legitimacy of a free press, and the rule of law. In populism, democracy is challenged but not destroyed.

As I finish this book, a new populism has taken the world’s reins. Once again, the electoral success of a narcissistic leader has come with offending, and downplaying the value of, others. Intolerance and discrimination have opened the way for a definition of the people that relies simultaneously on inclusion and exclusion. As in the past, this new, recharged populism challenges democracy from within, but history teaches us that democratic institutions and a strong civil society can forcefully challenge populists in power. In short, we can learn from historical instances of resistance.

When modern populism emerged, the Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges stated that, having been thrown out of Berlin, fascism had migrated to Buenos Aires. The regimes of Germany and Argentina advanced oppression, servitude, and cruelty, but it was even “more abominable that they promote[d] idiocy.” Even if he problematically conflated fascism (a dictatorship) and populism (an authoritarian electoral form of democracy), Borges acutely revealed why and how they both endorsed stupidity and the absence of historical thinking. They ignored lived experiences and affirmed crass mythologies. If in his elitism he was not able to recognize why the new populism was an inclusive choice for people who felt unrepresented, Borges still clearly noted its defining “sad” monotony. Diversity was replaced with imperatives and symbols. In this early analysis of populists in history, Borges stressed how their leaders turned politics into lies. Reality became melodrama. They twisted everything into fictions “which can’t be believed and were believed.” Like Borges, we need to remember that fascism and populism must be faced with empirical truths, or, as he put it, we need to distinguish between “legend and reality.” In times like this, the past reminds us that fascism and populism are themselves subject to the forces of history.


Federico Finchelstein is Professor of History at the New School for Social Research and Eugene Lang College in New York City. He is the author of several books, including Transatlantic Fascism and The Ideological Origins of the Dirty War. He contributes to major American, European, and Latin American media, including the New York TimesWashington PostThe GuardianMediapart, Politico, ClarinNexos, and Folha de S.Paulo.


Trump’s Transgender Crisis

By Jack Halberstam, author of the forthcoming Trans*: A Quick and Quirky Account of Gender Variability

This guest post is part of a blog series of contributions by authors in American Studies Now, an e-book first series of short, timely books on significant political and cultural events.


At a time when the visibility and acceptance of transgender people has never been higher, when high school students openly discuss issues of gender variance and businesses boycott states without transgender bathroom policies, President Trump tweeted his intention to ban transgender people from the military. Perhaps, President Trump decided that he needed to make this bold move to win back conservative backers. No doubt even devout Trump supporters in the USA might be eyeing Trump’s health care policies with bewilderment right now and wondering why they are in bed with a one-percenter with strong ties to Russia and little interest in US businesses. For those supporters, Trump offered an olive branch yesterday—by proposing to ban transgender people from the military, he happily sacrificed a gender ambiguous lamb to the mercurial gods of conservative family values.

Trump’s pro-LGBT stance was only the latest campaign posture to find its way to the trash heap of broken promises. While fending off charges of collusion with Russia, treason, rigged elections, and incompetence, Trump has found an issue to rally his right wing fringe supporters while confusing and enraging his many detractors. In the wake of his announcement, many transgender people fired back on twitter to remind Trump and his cronies that they do not want to serve in the military anyway. Others, service members who have been honored in combat, emphasized their intention to stay right where they are, ban or no ban. America’s most famous transgender soldier, Chelsea Manning, accused Trump of cowardice and of creating a distraction with his announcement, but she also suggested that the US military had an inflated and bloated budget anyway, which should be redirected to health care. Hear, hear!

Trump’s tweeted policy change exemplifies how confused conservatives are about transgender issues. While running for office, Trump clearly stated his intentions to protect LGBT communities and to defend the rights of transgender people to use whatever bathroom they deem appropriate and, one assumes, to serve in the military. So, why this ban, why now? Is it related to the health care bill that President Trump has been trying unsuccessfully to put in place—a bill that will dispossess hundreds of thousands of people of their current health care policies? Is it part of an economic retrenchment, an attempt to cut away all unnecessary spending? Trump himself gave an economic rationale for his decision saying that the military spends millions on transgender surgeries. This is nonsense, as many journalists and researchers have pointed out—sex reassignment surgeries are a miniscule part of any military budget and in fact, as the BBC reports: “the US military spends almost $42m a year on the erectile dysfunction medication Viagra—several times the total estimated cost of transgender medical support.” By comparison, the Rand corporation estimates that expenses related to transgender soldiers fall between $5-8 million annually.

There are a few lessons to be learned from Trump’s quick turn away from his clearly stated promises to support transgender people—first, transgender issues have tended to be a safe bet for securing conservative votes. Trump may have overestimated the extent to which this is still true. Second, transgender issues continue to hold a fascination and allure that distracts people from the actual issues under discussion. Finally, transgender people are more integrated into society than ever before in history and the tide towards acceptance is unlikely to be turned back by big, dumb moves like this one. Rather than simply fight for the right for transgender people to serve in the military however, we should seize upon this issue, as Chelsea Manning did, to ask why the military has such a bloated budget in the first place and how these funds can be redirected? We should also push back in similar ways and with equal force on Trump’s attempts to: dispossess people of access to basic health care, amp up security forces and deportations, and to downsize education.

This latest measure neither reflects the current climate on transgender people in or out of the military and has no obvious purpose other than to distract from his total lack of a foreign policy, his disdain for the health of the environment, and his total inability to govern. Transgender people, many of whom have served their country selflessly, which is more than Trump and most of his cabinet can claim, will survive this latest indignity and may well see this ban overturned sooner rather than later once Trump realizes he has lost the crowd’s attention and support and has instead inspired their wrath, their pity and finally, their indifference.


Jack Halberstam is Professor of English and Gender Studies at Columbia University.

His forthcoming book Trans*: A Quick and Quirky Account of Gender Variability explores recent shifts in the meaning of the gendered body and representation, and the possibilities of a nongendered, gender-optional, or gender-queer future. Part of the American Studies Now series, Trans* will be available as an e-book first this September, months before the print edition publishes.


Educators Argue that Trump’s Immigration Policies Belong in the History Books

by Clif Stratton, author of Education for Empire: American Schools, Race, and the Paths of Good Citizenship

This guest post is part of a series published in conjunction with the meeting of the Organization of American Historians in New Orleans. The theme of this year’s conference is “Circulation,” which characterizes many of the subjects historians study, whether migrations, pilgrimages, economies, networks, ideas, culture, conflicts, plagues or demography. #OAH17


While Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is likely in for a long fight should she seriously push for painful “school choice” programs, President Trump’s deportation policies are having an immediate and detrimental impact on U.S. students and schools.

In late February, the Bay Area’s Mercury News reported a forty percent drop in the number of college financial aid applications from undocumented students. California’s Dream Act allows undocumented students brought to the United States as children to access financial aid and in-state tuition. But Donald Trump’s “military operation” aimed at ramping up deportations has many high school and college students wary of providing identifying information to government authorities.

Two weeks later, ICE arrested Romulo Avelica-Gonzalez, an undocumented father of four U.S. citizens while driving his daughter Fatima to school in northeast Los Angeles. The family was less than two blocks from Fatima’s school, which signaled, according to reports, that ICE may discard its long-standing policy not to conduct enforcement raids at hospitals, churches, schools, and other “sensitive sites.”

Meanwhile, in the Aloha state, public school social studies (social studies!) teacher John Sullivan used his work email to announce: “If [students] are in the U.S. illegally, I won’t teach them.” His email was in response to that of school counselor who cited national statistics concerning an increase in school absences over deportation fears.

Historians of American education will find these intersections of immigration policy and public education horrific yet unsurprising. As unions and lawmakers in California and other western states moved to bar first Chinese then Japanese migrants from entering the U.S. at the turn of the twentieth century, school administrators actively participated in the xenophobic hysteria by segregating citizens and non-citizens of Asian descent in inferior schools. Some school officials openly advocated deportation.

Continue reading “Educators Argue that Trump’s Immigration Policies Belong in the History Books”


The Problem of Women in Early Modern Japan

by Marcia Yonemoto, author of The Problem of Women in Early Modern Japan

This guest post is published in conjunction with the Association for Asian Studies conference in Toronto. Check back regularly for new posts through the end of the conference on March 19th.

During the final month of the bruising 2016 U.S. Presidential campaign, Inoguchi Kuniko, a member of Japan’s parliament and former Minister of State for Gender Equality and Social Affairs, registered her disappointment at the coarseness of American political discourse, and remarked that “when the glass ceiling breaks, there are a lot of injuries that a woman must bear.”[1] This struck me as a valid but curious statement, coming as it did from a high-profile female member of the conservative wing of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and staunch ally of current Prime Minister Abe Shinzō. For despite the Abe government’s vigorous endorsement of “womenomics,” its policy program to increase the number of women elected to public office, in high managerial positions in business, and in positions of authority in public life in general, Japan is still far from reaching the government’s target goals—indeed, at least by the measures of the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report, Japan is trending downward, not upward, in terms of resolving persistent gender inequality.[2] So in speaking about the danger of shattering glass ceilings, was Inoguchi simply expressing sympathy for then-Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton? Was she speaking from her own perspective as one of a spate of women cabinet ministers in the Abe government, many of whose terms in office were cut short by campaign-finance and other scandals? Or was she speaking in the abstract, ruminating perhaps not about when women in Japan break the glass ceiling, but if they ever will?

These particular questions can’t be answered with any certainty, but it is clear that roles and perceptions of women in Japanese public and private life continue to evolve, to raise questions, and to spark debate. I address very similar issues in my book, The Problem of Women in Early Modern Japan, except my focus is on women in the seventeenth through early nineteenth centuries. The book explores the challenges women encountered when trying to reconcile confining social norms with individual autonomy, obligations to others with desires of their own, and limited public authority with myriad forms of private power. While the early modern military state often has been viewed as authoritarian and oppressive, its social and political controls were far weaker than those enjoyed by state today. And while the government articulated cultural norms and ideals of propriety, it lacked the comprehensive authority to enforce them, and this allowed considerable latitude for women to learn, to work, to write, and to play in ways contemporary observers may find surprising.

[1] “U.S. Presidential Campaign Shocks Women Around Asia-Pacific,” Asahi Shinbun/Reuters, 10/20/2016.

[2] Japan’s overall ranking dropped from 101st out of 145 countries surveyed to 111th out of 144. By comparison, the United States’ overall ranking also went down between 2015 and 2016, dropping from 28th to 45th. See World Economic Forum, The Global Gender Gap Report 2015, accessed at: http://reports.weforum.org/global-gender-gap-report-2015/ and World Economic Forum, The Global Gender Gap Report 2016, accessed at: http://reports.weforum.org/global-gender-gap-report-2016/ . Other data, however, show some progress—a 2016 Cabinet Office poll showed that for the first time, a majority of Japanese adults (54.2%) believed that “women should continue working even after they have children.” Maiko Ito, “Majority for First Time Says Mothers Should Continue to Work,” Asahi Shinbun 11/14/2016, accessed at: http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201611140005.html


Marcia Yonemoto is Associate Professor in the Department of History at the University of Colorado Boulder and author of Mapping Early Modern Japan: Space, Place, and Culture in the Tokugawa Period (1603–1868).


Tell The Children Not To Be Afraid

By Joanna Dreby, author of Everyday Illegal: When Policies Undermine Immigrant Families

Over the past eight years of the Obama administration, there has been a record high number of deportations, more than under any other President historically. Researchers have recorded the impacts of such a focus on immigration enforcement, my own contribution documented in the book Everyday Illegal. Men, mostly from Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean have been the primary targets of enforcement actions. Yet men live in families; they have wives and girlfriends and children, many of whom are legal residents or U.S. citizens. Immigration enforcement has torn families apart.

When a parent is deported, a child experiences sudden economic hardship along with the emotional trauma of having the state take away a parent one day to the next. These are the immediate impacts. But what of the aftermath? In some cases spouses or children decide to return to their deported spouses’ country of origin, in many cases forfeiting their rights as U.S. citizens to live freely in this country. In other cases, families live through painful separations and the on-going financial and emotional trauma that entails. The deported face many difficulties in finding employment in countries of origin: they rarely can make enough money to support family members living in the United States.

The consequence of a system that increasingly criminalizes immigrants goes beyond that of those who are the target of enforcement. There are rippling effects. One of those unintended impacts is that the young children in the immigrant families I interviewed often reported that they did not feel comfortable with the word “immigrant.” At times they misused it, telling me that immigrants are people who are “illegal” or “not supposed to be here.” I heard the same thing from unauthorized kids, from kids whose parents were legal permanent residents, and from U.S. citizens; the legal status of children’s own family members mattered, but the rhetoric about immigrants impacted children in all types of families.

Under Donald Trump’s presidency, there are a lot of unknowns. How much of the Obama administration’s policies will remain intact? Will Trump make good on his promises to build a wall? Will he revoke DACA or will it simply expire? Will the deportations increase or stay the course? We do not yet know what changes to immigration policy the new administration will bring.

Yet for children I believe that much damage has already been done. Policies that criminalize immigrants and the rhetoric behind them instill fear in children. It is the fear that a loved one will be taken away or those children’s rights to be in the United States will be questioned because they live in a family of immigrants. We saw these policies under the Obama Administration. And yet Trump’s campaign planted even more seeds of fear in children. This past week, children had their fears legitimized in the form of the Presidency. I expect many of the experiences I documented in Everyday Illegal to become ever more common. But perhaps too young children will also become more bold in confronting those fears in days to come, like 6-year-old Sophie Cruz who told the audience of hundreds of thousands at the Women’s March on Washington, in Spanish and English: “Let us fight with love, faith, and courage so that our families will not be destroyed. I also want to tell the children not to be afraid because we are not alone.”


Joanna Dreby is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University at Albany, SUNY, and the author of Everyday Illegal and Divided by Borders.


America Through Their Eyes

From the moment that Donald Trump was elected president, the vote was considered a “a revolt of working-class whites”. Many people lay a portion of the blame of the current state of the U.S. at the feet of the working-class whites.

Pulitzer Prize winner Dale Maharidge has worked for decades as a journalist chronicling the lives of the working poor across America. During that time, he saw how growing income inequality in working class towns lead to the reactionary populism that we now see in this country.

Maharidge states: “Right now, people feel alienated. And they are disconnected from each other. A lot of the initiatives I am writing about, a lot of them are building communities. Through that, people can meet each other, know each other, give money to each other. That’s what any nation is about, it’s about community. And Americans, a lot of the people over the years are going to see a part of it. When you reinstall a sense of community, you also create a political stability, and you get democracy. When people feel disconnected and powerless you get authoritarian regimes.”

In the updated edition of Someplace Like America: Tales from the New Great Depression, Maharidge and photographer Michael S. Williamson share the experiences of this community:

Frances and Frank in their shanty beside the Colorado River, after their nighttime shifts at a Nevada casino. Bullhead City, Arizona, 1995.

My America is also seen up close in the eyes of its people. They are eyes that speak without words.

Among those Michael and I remember the most: The eyes of a woman who has fallen from upper-class privilege and is now standing in a charity food line are still proud and hurting a year after she lost the big home. A frugal white-collar mom, raising children on her own, works two jobs year-round, in some seasons, three; her eyes fill with tears as she talks about how she is barely surviving. A waitress in her sixties, whose tips are way down, will never be able to retire and believes she’ll work until she falls dead; her sleep-deprived eyes gaze into a realm of numbness as she sprints between tables. Unbridled fear is in the eyes of a Latino man, a U.S. citizen, who is terrified of being stopped and once again bloodied by cops who assume that he’s undocumented because of his brown skin.

There are so many more, named and nameless, thousands of eyes. … The eyes you see tell a story of decades of economic assault.

There is something else visible in these eyes: toughness. Study the image of Ken Platt and his son on the cover of [Someplace Like America] — both generations epitomize this steel-like resiliency. Or turn to the second section of photographs and look into the eyes of the woman who has just come home with her husband to a little shanty made of blankets strung over wooden poles, hidden in the bushes beside the Colorado River, after she has put in a long night shift working at a casino. You cannot defeat people with eyes like these.

Maharidge reminds us that people and community are still at the heart of America:

Thirty-five hundred people waiting as long as fourteen hours to seek health care from the Remote Area Medical Volunteer Corps, an organization that once served only the desperately ill poor in Third World nations but now operates in the United States. Wise, Virginia, 2008

This is not a wonky book about government policy or the merits of specific economic remedies. Rather, it aims to describe the human side of where we are today, trapped in an economy whose fruits have been denied to a majority of Americans.

It has taken thirty years of war against working-class Americans to get where we are. It may take a generation to get out of this mess. We are at a cultural and economic turning point. One era has ended; another, as yet unnamed, is dawning. How will it be shaped? As we begin to understand the pointed, painful questions that must be addressed, perhaps we can begin to change.

After a long career as a journalist and documentarian, I’m deeply disillusioned and cynical about our political and business “leaders.” They have failed us, repeatedly.

Yet I am ever the optimist about the American people. One thing I’ve discovered in all these years of hearing Americans talk about their lives and dreams is that collectively we are strong. We are survivors. We emerged from hard times in the 1930s. We will do so again and will begin the long process of rebuilding an economy that works for everyone, but this can happen only if we relearn some lessons about caring for and relying on one another. And relearn we will, for we have no other choice.”


Trump’s American Dream: You’ll Have to Be Asleep to Believe It

By Victor Tan Chen, author of Cut Loose: Jobless and Hopeless in an Unfair Economy

While there are many reasons why Donald Trump won the election, it’s clear that the movement of the white working class away from the Democratic Party had something to do with it. Given that this demographic seems to have put Trump over the top in the Electoral College, what do we expect his administration’s policies to do for this group—and for the working class (which, importantly, is increasingly nonwhite) more broadly?

First, his proposed tax plan will dramatically increase income inequality in this country. It will be a windfall for elites—particularly the richest 0.1%, America’s corporate executives and Wall Street financiers—who already have rewritten the rules of the economic game to favor them. Meanwhile, it will punish millions of low-income and single-parent families by stripping away some of their tax deductions. (Ironically, the white working class that broke decisively for Trump has been increasingly falling into this latter camp.)

Second, labor unions—historically, a voice for ordinary workers and an engine of greater economic equality—will take a hit. The Republican Party will accelerate its nationwide push to enact state “right to work” laws—which, shockingly, now hold sway in states where unions once thrived, like Michigan. They will likely put forward a national version of “right to work.” Trump’s Supreme Court appointee will hold the decisive vote in the coming court battle over efforts to further weaken public-sector unions, whose growth in recent decades has been a rare bright spot for organized labor in this country. The person he chooses will undoubtedly side with the rest of the conservative majority to allow nonmembers to freeride—partake of the benefits won by these unions without contributing anything from their paychecks in return. As I argue in my book, labor unions were essential in creating the “moral economy” that reigned in America in the years after World War II, when workers without much in the way of education could organize, collectively bargain for high wages, and persuasively lobby for pro-worker policies—in the process, securing a degree of middle-class prosperity. Further declines in union membership and government social spending will also erode the institutional foundations of a valuable support and retraining system that today’s workers will sorely need if they are to adapt to a quickly changing economic landscape.

On the other hand, Trump’s efforts to shame companies into keeping jobs in America could bear fruit. One of the problems that American workers face is that norms among business leaders have changed, so that not only is extravagant executive compensation no longer seen as unseemly, but downsizing, outsourcing, and offshoring have become standard operating procedures. The presidential bully pulpit can be a potent weapon—as abrupt changes in norms about gay marriage following Obama’s about-face on this issue showed. In a similar vein, it is conceivable that Trump’s in-your-face approach to foreign affairs will give the administration some leverage in future negotiations over global trade deals. All this said, I am generally pessimistic about Trump’s ability to win back many of the good manufacturing jobs that have been lost to trade—mainly because automation has eliminated even more of those jobs. Technological change, and not foreign competition, seems to be the chief threat moving forward, with even middle-class jobs for well-educated workers likely to be automated away in the years ahead. But any comprehensive strategy to deal with the potentially massive net loss of jobs—such as enacting a universal basic income—will get no traction in a Republican-controlled Congress. Likewise, America’s trading partners now hold a stronger hand than they did when deals like NAFTA were brokered. Within this changing world order, trade wars are not likely to turn out well for the US economy.

In my book, I argue that a crucial reason that unemployed Canadian workers do not fare as poorly as their American counterparts is the single-payer healthcare system up north—which means that an unexpected trip to the hospital, for instance, won’t saddle them with a hefty bill. (Surviving without a job often amounts to having the luck to avoid these sudden income shocks—and health insurance, by definition, insures against those shocks.) With Trump in the presidency, I’m less sanguine than many commentators are that Obamacare can survive in any substantial form. Without the need to overturn a presidential veto, Republican lawmakers can pursue a variety of strategies to either roll back its various measures or indirectly starve them of funding. Of course, some Republicans are having cold feet at the moment about taking away the insurance of millions of Americans. But gerrymandered congressional districts mean that many of them won’t pay much of a political price for their votes, and in any case the ideological extremism of today’s Republican Party is such that fear of being primaried from the right will likely outweigh fear of any general-election backlash.

The conclusion of my book makes the case for a politics of grace—a push, led by social movements, to move society away from the unrelenting and unforgiving culture of success and status-seeking that now prevails, and that debases the self-worth of the working class above all. Unfortunately, the Trump administration will likely advance the exact opposite set of values: a politics of vengeance and domination. Short-fused, mercurial, and unable to control his fury over the tiniest slights, Trump seems driven more by a desire to settle scores with those who oppose him than any core ideological commitments. In his pronouncements from the bully pulpit, he has made it clear that he is about America “winning”—as he personally, through his attainment of extravagant wealth and fame, believes he has done. But the pursuit of a Trumpian American dream of materialism and self-interest will take us even farther from the civic-minded ideals of the early republic. As rising inequality stamps out opportunities for rags-to-riches stories of success, and the Trump administration’s promises to working people prove to be worthless, that narrow dream of national greatness may, in fact, take on another, darker meaning: as George Carlin put it, “It’s called the American dream ’cause you have to be asleep to believe it.”


Victor Tan Chen is Assistant Professor of Sociology at Virginia Commonwealth University and the founding editor of In the Fray magazine. He is the coauthor, with Katherine S. Newman, of The Missing Class: Portraits of the Near Poor in America.


Studying Religion in the Age of Trump

This post is adapted from the introduction to a special Forum, Studying Religion in the Age of Trump, published in the Winter 2017 issue of Religion and American Culture. Enjoy free access to the Forum until March 10, 2017. For more RAC content, become an individual subscriber or ask your library to subscribe on your behalf.


There are many ways to interpret the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States. From appeals to anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim sentiments to attacks on the establishment and political correctness, alongside more traditional topics like abortion, religious freedom, and ethics, enough subterranean shifts occurred to flip some states red and elect a populist president.

What role did religion in play in these events? How might this election cause us to rethink some seemingly settled conclusions about religion and politics, religion and race, and religion and gender, among other topics? Finally, what might we learn from the election of 2016 that will alter our questions and further our work over the next several years?

To consider these essential questions and implications, the editors of Religion and American Culture invited prominent scholars across multiple disciplines to share their perspectives via brief essays or “thought pieces.” All of them have published on subjects that have helped us understand different aspects of religion and American culture in ways that shed light on the nature of religion in politics and public life.

Now, more than ever, is an appropriate moment for us to look back at how we arrived at previous conclusions, question which interpretations might suitably be shaken up, and consider where our fields might fruitfully go in the coming years. The scholars and pieces featured in the Special Forum include:

The Redoubt of Racism: The 2016 Presidential Campaign, the Origins of the Religious Right, and Why It Matters
Randall Balmer
Professor of Religion, Dartmouth College

 The Prosperity Gospel and the American Presidency
Kate Bowler
Assistant Professor of the History of Christianity in North America, Duke University

Redefining Evangelicalism in the Age of Trumpism
Anthea Butler
Associate Professor of Religious Studies, University of Pennsylvania

An American Contrareformatio
Maura Jane Farrelly
Associate Professor of American Studies, Brandeis University

Return of the Monolith? Understanding the White Evangelical Trump Vote
Wes Markofski
Assistant Professor of Sociology, Carleton College

The Hidden Injuries of Class and Religion
Robert Orsi
Professor of Religion, Northwestern University

Reckoning with American White Christian(ist) Patriarchalism and Multicultural Liberalism
Jerry Z. Park and James Clark Davidson
Associate Professor of Sociology, and Graduate Assistant in Sociology of Religion, Baylor University

The Trump Victory and American Evangelicalism
Matthew Sutton
Professor of History, Washington State University

Priorities in Immigration
Grace Yukich
Assistant Professor of Sociology, Quinnipiac University


Immigration Syllabus: UC Press Edition

With last Friday’s executive order on immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries, along with plans to continue construction of the barrier along the US-Mexico border moving forward, the current presidential administration has brought heightened attention to immigration and American society, and with it, spurred outcry worldwide, and drawn a number of federal lawsuits.

Immigration historians from across the USA have launched #ImmigrationSyllabus, a website and educational resource to help the public understand the historical roots of today’s immigration debates; they have inspired us to follow suit.

Below is a list of UC Press suggested readings, organized in descending order from most recently published, to provide further informed, deeply researched context to the ongoing conversations around immigration reform and citizenship.

Easily and quickly request exam and desk copies online by visiting any of the books’ pages above. If you need assistance in choosing the right texts for your course, we’d be glad to help; contact us here.

Browse more of our history and immigration titles.